Corboy & Demetrio Obtains $1.4 Million Settlement for Victim of 1997 Merchandise Mart Attack
A settlement was reached between the Merchandise Mart Properties, Inc. and the victim of a 1997 attack at the Mart. Terry Olson was attacked and beaten by an assailant in a service corridor behind her showroom at the Mart on January 10, 1997.
Subsequent investigation uncovered significant gaps in the security procedures at the Mart, not the least of which was a security audit performed years before the attack that pointed out the weaknesses in the Mart's security plan.
"Surprisingly, the Mart apparently felt the security improvements recommended in the 1991 security audit were too expensive to justify," said a C&D attorney for Ms. Olson. "The security audit was an early warning for the Mart, which went unheeded." Pre-trial discovery revealed a security system where security officers and other employees did not coordinate their work. "As a consequence, the left hand did not know what the right was doing and unauthorized people could get onto allegedly secured floors," the lawyer said.
Witness testimony established that the attacker Derrick Moody asked a Merchandise Mart employee to take him to a secured floor in the freight elevator. The Mart employee complied without asking Moody for any identification.
The Mart hired former Chicago Police Superintendent Leroy Martin to testify that the Mart's security procedures were adequate, however, he was forced to make certain concessions, which undermined his testimony. The Mart also took the legal position that it was not responsible for Ms. Olson's injuries because they were the result of a criminal attack. "That legal position was fairly quickly rejected by the Court," the firm said. Adding that "the law in Illinois imposes duties on property owners to protect against reasonably foreseeable criminal attacks and to carry out security measures with reasonable care. The settlement amount, among the highest in the State for similar cases, "reflects the Mart's acknowledgment that it made mistakes which directly led to the attack," said the firm.
Corboy & Demetrio retained the services of Gerald Brandt, a well-respected security consultant in the City. "Mr. Brandt's testimony proved very valuable to Ms. Olson's case," the firm stated, adding "we were prepared to show the jury the deficiencies in the Mart's security through the testimony of a man who consults on security matters as his profession. There was little the Mart had to refute in Mr. Brandt's testimony." Mr. Brandt has recently been retained by property owners and managers to consult on security matters for such buildings as the Sears Tower and others following the September 11, 2001 attacks.